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Projecting Josh Rutledge

Josh Rutledge has been filling in at shortstop for the injured Troy Tulowitzki and has done quite an admirable job, having posted an impressive .445 wOBA over 84 plate appearances. Unfortunately, we have no projections from any sources for the rookie and fantasy owners are left wondering what to expect from him for the rest of the season. Fear not loyal RotoGraphs reader, the Pod Projections have returned to answer that very question.

I have decided to project him assuming a full season to give you an idea of what he would do on a pro-rated basis. His current statistics are not factored into the final projected stat line. They are only used to help formulate the projected underlying metrics themselves.

At-Bats: 600. A top of the order hitter playing full-time typically accumulates this many at-bats, so we’ll go with it.

Contact Rate: 80%. At High-A in 2011, Rutledge made contact at an 80%, and then improved upon that ever so slightly to 81% while at Double-A this season. As a reminder, Rutledge has yet to see a plate appearance at the Triple-A level. His 2011 home park reduces strikeouts for right-handed batters by 5% as did his 2012 park. Coors Field reduces strikeouts to righties by 11%. His current Major League mark sits at 84%. Given his minor league strikeout rates teetering around 80% and his lack of Triple-A experience, offset somewhat by the better ballpark, I landed on an 80% projection.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 46%/21%/33%. He had generally posted ground ball rates in the mid-40% range in the minors and is doing exactly that so far in the Majors. Coors Field drastically inflates line drives, so he could very well maintain a 22% rate or close to it.

BABIP: .320. My expected BABIP formulas spit out .332 and .340 marks and he has posted exceptional BABIPs in the minors and he has so far in the Majors. We know that Coors significantly inflates hits, so a .349 BABIP for the season like what he has currently enjoyed is not out of the question. However, a more likely scenario is for a .335 mark, which splits the difference between the two formulas.

HR/FB Ratio: 12%. My rough estimate is that Rutledge posted a HR/FB ratio of around 14% this year in Double-A and 8% in High-A last year. His 2012 home park inflated homers by 19%, but his 2011 park suppressed them by 58% (is this for real?! this sounds like an error). Coors Field increases right-handed homers by 16%, so nearly as much as his minor league home park this year. Clearly, Rutledge won’t keep up his current 27% mark. I think 12% is reasonable

RBI and Runs: 70 and 90. If I expected his OBP to be better and he learned to be more patient, his runs scored projection may have topped the century mark. Hitting behind a strong OBP in Dexter Fowler will help his RBI total though.

SBs: 14. He has attempted and succeeded on three attempts, which pro-rates to 22 attempts on the year. He stole 14 in 18 tries at Double-A and 16 in 19 tries at High-A, so he seems to be a pretty decent base-stealer. Since he rarely walks and his batting average is due for a substantial drop, his OBP is going to be rather lousy, cutting into his opportunities. He’s also obviously going to get caught a couple of times of those pro-rated 22. All these factors result in my 14 steal projection.

Below is my final projected batting line:

AB AVG HR RBI R SB CT% BABIP HR/FB GB%/LD%/FB%
600 0.289 21 70 90 14 80% 0.335 12% 46%/21%/33%

Over a full season, this projected stat line at shortstop would earn about $17 in a standard 12-team mixed league according to my valuation method. Amazingly, that would have ranked him fifth among all shortstops in my pre-season projections, just behind Starlin Castro. However, keep in mind how much risk is involved. He has never played at Triple-A and the jump from Double-A to the Majors is much more difficult for hitters than pitchers. Since he has walked just twice in the Majors, pitchers might quickly adjust and stop throwing him strikes.

In addition, though Rutledge hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere, he wasn’t highly regarded before the season. Marc Hulet ranked him just 11th among Rockies prospects, suggesting that he possessed no more than gap power, peaking at 8-10 home runs in a season. Clearly, his .202 Double-A ISO was a pleasant surprise and maybe something changed that led to the improved power.